---- — By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
ELYSBURG -- Here's an interesting description not often heard in personal introductions: Nine-time trapshooting state champion.
The list of individuals that can lay claim to that feat, according to the PSSA record book, is capped at one -- Stephanie Sandler. The 26-year old native of New Ringgold has quickly established herself as one of the top shooters statewide, if not worldwide, with nine straight Pa. High-Overall Women's titles.
And like a number of the shooters at the Pa. State Trapshoot in Elysburg this week, she has a family member to thank for introducing her to the sport.
"I have an older brother who shot a year or two before me and I just came along," Sandler said.
Since she was 12 years old, Sandler has been practicing to reach her current elite level.
"When I started I was pretty young, but when I look back on (my accomplishments) now, I find it pretty amazing," she said.
Pretty amazing, indeed, when you consider Sandler attends college at Penn State-Schuylkill Haven in addition to shooting competitively.
The added workload of being a college student prevents Sandler from practicing frequently to stay at the level to which she is accustomed, but she has shown an ability to dial up her "A" game.
"I'm trying to shoot as much as I can right now and get school out of the way," she said.
For someone who has her name throughout the annals of state trapshooting history, Sandler said she is working toward one specific goal.
"I would like to get a Grand Slam," Sandler said. "I would eventually like to have that, but it takes a little time."
The ATA Grand Slam consists of 200 straight makes in singles (one pigeon fired at a time), 100 straight hits in doubles (two fired simultaneously), and 100 straight shattered clay pigeons in handicap (one pigeon fired but the shooters stand farther away) from the maximum 27-yard distance. Sandler has achieved a perfect score in both singles and doubles, and if she can smash 100 straight in handicap, she will become the first Pa. woman to complete the feat according to the Trapshooting Hall of Fame.
Competition keeps her motivated to trek to shoots.
"I think I'm just naturally a competitive person," Sandler said. "I go out to have fun but I also go out to win at the same time. (My goal) is to do the best that I can."
Like many athletes who excel at their sport, Sandler said that it is nerve-wracking to be away from the range while a shoot is taking place. She added that it can be difficult to occupy her time when a large shoot is happening and she is not participating.
The desire to compete will likely not leave Sandler as she plans on competing for many more years.
In 2010, Sandler proved that she can compete on equal footing with some of the best shooters in the world, male or female, when she captured the overall state doubles title, in addition to her seventh straight women's title.
"I didn't have to shoot off (to determine a winner)," she said. "I just kind of sat there and waited (for the result)."
In addition to nine consecutive high-overall women's titles, Sandler has two 16-yard state titles, a handicap championship, an overall doubles titles and seven titles each in women's doubles and women's all-around.
Despite her wide array of success in multiple disciplines of trapshooting, Sandler remains humble, describing her first state title in 2003 in women's doubles as "an honor."
Sandler intends to pursue further degrees after graduation, but it's clear she's already mastered trapshooting.